Archives 2014

Here are my top 5 climate news items from 2014 that illustrate the most important trends, followed by more extensive analysis and interpretation of each item:

·      ABC poll finds 69% of Americans believe climate change is a serious problem facing the country

·      Scientists discover West Antarctic ice sheet is unstable and collapse may be irreversible

·      U.S. and China agree on emission reductions

·      Scotland produces enough wind energy in October to power all households

·      Regional Economic Models Inc. finds Shultz-Becker carbon fee and dividend proposal would benefit the U.S. economy

Polls show strong public awareness and concern about climate change


It seems there is growing public awareness and concern about climate change and public support for action.  A summary of polls is at:


Awareness of climate change has entered daily life.  For example, the other day I took my daughter to see a movie, and the previews/ads included this video about the impact of climate change on the island nation of Kiribati:


Miami Beach envisions spending hundreds of millions of dollars to cope with rising sea levels, and there’s growing concern about how to fund flood insurance as “nuisance flooding” along the coasts becomes more common.  Nuisance flooding in Annapolis, Maryland has increased from about 4 days a year to almost 40.


Many of us live in regions where extreme precipitation is on the rise, with hundred-year events now occurring on a regular basis.  People are noticing.  The National Climate Assessment depicts this rise in extreme precipitation very clearly in Figure 2.18:


Malaysia received a month of rain in a single day, and 160,000 people had to be evacuated.  Events like this are happening more frequently and are made worse by climate change.


Businesses see the impact of climate change on their bottom lines, and investors are also taking note.  As they look ahead, they are assessing the future risks of climate change.


Harvard Business Review:




Price Waterhouse Coopers:


In response to increased public concern, the political discourse is shifting.  As Senator John Barasso (R-WY) said,


All of us want to make energy as clean as we can as fast as we can.  We want to do it in ways that don't raise the energy costs for American families and impact their jobs, income, ability to provide for their families. Those are the issues we need to be focusing on."


The statement acknowledges public support for clean energy and calls for practical solutions that will be politically acceptable.  See the last section of this update for a proposal that will deliver the clean energy the public wants while addressing the concerns raised about the economic impact on families.


Scientific findings show we can’t wait any longer


The climate has already changed in measurable ways, with increasing heat waves, droughts, sea level rise, and extreme precipitation (dry areas are generally becoming drier while wet areas are generally getting wetter).


There have long been warnings that we may pass tipping points that lock in irreversible effects, and this apparently has happened for the first time with the West Antarctic ice sheet.  While effects will not be noticed soon, an extra 10 feet of sea level rise over the next few centuries seems to be locked in because we have not heeded warnings.  Other tipping points may be lurking ahead, such as release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as Arctic tundra thaws.


Business Insider magazine gives a good summary of the expected impacts of climate change at:


The Risky Business report summarizes financial impacts of these changes at:



U.S.-China agreement shapes International negotiations


For the first time ever, China has agreed to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions.  One way to assess the U.S.-China agreement is to look at per-capita emissions.  From this perspective, U.S. emissions are currently trending downward and the U.S. has agreed to continue reducing them at about the current rate.  By contrast, Chinese emissions have been sharply increasing and China has agreed to significantly change course.


Per capita emissions:


In November, negotiators from around the world gathered in Lima, Peru to start to shape the international climate agreement to be finalized in 2015.  Negotiations resulted in some significant shifts in stances, including:


·      Recognition that all nations (not just developed nations) need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

·      Recognition that the “safe” limit for global warming may be closer to 1.5 degrees Centigrade rather than 2 degrees Centigrade

·      Serious talk about switching completely to renewables globally by 2050.

·      More emphasis on market-based approaches that price carbon as opposed to regulatory approaches to reducing emissions.



Clean energy technology is ready now, as demonstrated by Scotland and others


Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Germany, and Portugal are just a few countries that produce a significant percentage of the their electricity from renewable sources and demonstrate there are no technical or economic barriers to adopting clean energy.


Clean energy costs continued to drop rapidly.


In the U.S., more than 40% of all new electric generation capacity in 2014 was provided by wind and solar.  Reference: see the table on page 3 of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report at:



REMI report shows how to boost clean energy and the economy at the same time



Quote from a 2013 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by George Schultz and Gary Becker:


“Americans like to compete on a level playing field. All the players should have an equal opportunity to win based on their competitive merits, not on some artificial imbalance that gives someone or some group a special advantage.


We think this idea should be applied to energy producers. They all should bear the full costs of the use of the energy they provide. Most of these costs are included in what it takes to produce the energy in the first place, but they vary greatly in the price imposed on society by the pollution they emit and its impact on human health and well-being, the air we breathe and the climate we create. We should identify these costs and see that they are attributed to the form of energy that causes them.”


Regional Economic Models Inc. studied this approach in 2014 and found that applying a steadily rising fee on carbon and returning the money to households would not only drive more efficient and more complete emissions reductions than a regulatory approach, but would also benefit the U.S. economy.  Most households would find the monthly dividend completely covers the additional costs during the transition, with money left over that would stimulate the Main Street economy.  It’s a win-win.


Phil Blackwood,
Oct 6, 2015, 4:59 AM